SALT LAKE CITY — The LDS Church continued to provide money Thursday to help the homeless near its global headquarters, announcing that it will give $10 million to Shelter the Homeless.
The money will fund the construction and development of transitional housing in the Salt Lake Valley in support of a massive effort to remake Utah's response to homelessness.
"Homelessness affects all sectors of our communities," said Bishop Gérald Caussé, presiding bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "Around the world, we join hands and hearts with dozens of partners engaged in alleviating suffering in their respective communities, and in the process we point people toward greater self-reliance."
The church now has donated more than $52 million over the past decade to nine groups that serve the homeless in the Salt Lake Valley.
The donation was hailed by local government leaders and welcomed by Shelter the Homeless.
"I'm thrilled by the generosity," said Janell Fluckiger, executive director of Shelter the Homeless. "It shows great faith in the collective work done in this community over the past three years to address these issues. I have gratitude for the gift, and I'm grateful for the recognition of the work and their desire to support it and be part of it."
Public and private, state, city and county leaders have collaborated in new ways over the past few years as they try to transform the state's homeless system. First, Operation Rio Grande has led to more than 1,700 arrests around the Road Home downtown shelter. Second, treatment for drug addiction has expanded, with 240 new treatment beds scheduled to open by year's end. The third phase of the operation, connecting people to work opportunities, is expected to begin in coming weeks.
Finally, the Road Home will close and be replaced by three new resource centers by June 2019. Shelter for Homeless is helping to coordinate that effort.
"The LDS Church has been a critical partner in the planning and execution of the new resource center model from the very beginning," Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski said. "This gift further signifies their dedication to ensuring the new resource centers are spaces of hope, where individuals can improve their lives and move toward independence. I am truly grateful for the church’s commitment to the success of Salt Lake City and all the people who call it home."
One of new resource centers might be built on what now is LDS Church property.
"We continue to look for ways to support this effort," the church said in its statement Thursday. "For example, discussions are ongoing with respect to our Deseret Industries store at 130 East and 700 South in Salt Lake City. The church has offered the city the option to purchase this property to be used as a future homeless resource center. We are also exploring options for a new Deseret Industries store to address downtown patron and associate needs."
Utah Jazz owner Gail Miller announced in August that her family will match up to $10 million in donations to fund programs and service inside three new homeless shelters in Salt Lake County once they open in 2019. More than 300 people have made donations that qualify for Miller family matching funds, Fluckiger said. Those donations ranged from $8 to $100,000.
The LDS Church gift does not fit the criteria for a match, as it is for development and construction of housing, not services.
"Those are two separate gifts for different purposes," Fluckiger said.
Miller said LDS leaders gave her advance notice of the announcement on Wednesday.
"I am thrilled that they would donate that much money," she said in a statement provided to the Deseret News, "and that they understand the need in our community to help the homeless."
The church's goal is to help homeless people and families transition to stable housing, "enable them to achieve better outcomes" and "assist those with housing challenges to elevate their personal circumstances," according to the church's announcement.
The donation comes from the church's Humanitarian Aid Fund, which comes from the voluntary contributions by church members.
This year, about 2,850 Utahns were identified as homeless during the point-in-time count in January — a 1.6 percent increase from the 2016 numbers, according to the state's 2017 Comprehensive Report on Homelessness released last month.
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said he was grateful for what he called a generous gift.
"This donation will bless the lives of thousands by supporting the construction of new resource centers and a new model for delivering homeless services that aims to address the root causes of homelessness and help individuals and families get back on their feet and regain stability and self-reliance," McAdams said. "The ways in which our community continues rallying together to help the most vulnerable among us is so inspiring."
Shelter for Homeless is involved in ownership and construction of transitional housing. It owns two supportive-housing complexes and is developing a third. It is applying for tax credits to fund that project, Fluckiger said.
She had not yet discussed with church leaders exactly what they want to see developed.
The average stay for people in Salt Lake emergency shelter and transitional housing declined from 94 nights in 2015 to 74 nights in 2016, according to the report released last month.
Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday's news was a positive development in the broad public-private effort to combat homelessness.
"I was thrilled to hear about this most generous donation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the development of housing for Utahns in need," he said. "I deeply appreciate the vital role that Utah’s faith-based organizations play in securing better futures for the most vulnerable among us."